Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T Is For Tomatoes

Tomatoes that survive me!
Tomatoes are my orphan crop. There was a season - the summer of 2012 - when I managed to get the crop just right.

The harvest was incredible: we snacked on them, made meals, gave away to friends, family, neighbours and employees.

I froze bags and bags of them, made sauces and gravies and still had enough to sell for weeks on end.

Since then, none of my tomato crops have brought out a decent harvest. Just enough for salads, a meal here and there, and that's it.  I tried different varieties; I planted seedlings instead of trying with seeds..and some of them survive enough to fruit. Barely.

This coming Spring I'm planting my tomato crop in containers and putting them in my kitchen courtyard. Maybe, away from the main garden, with each bush getting special attention, I'll get a better harvest. We'll see. Because while I'm tired of the hassle or trying over and over again, I'm not yet ready to give up on the incredible flavour of a home-grown tomato.

Back when my tomatoes loved me:)
So this post is different in that, it's not a tutorial. Instead, I'm asking for tips and suggestions on how I can successfully grow tomatoes again. I'll give you the basics of what I've been doing so far:

Site selection: The plants are in the main garden, but I haven't been planting them in beds that were previously used for tomatoes. Some of the tomatoes are planted in their own beds, others are planted with basil.

Soil preparation: Clay doctored mostly with manure and some compost. Still a bit heavy though.

Planting process: Seeds in a bed and in some instances, seedlings from nurseries.

Plant care: Make sure you water the roots of the tomato, not the leaves.  I was desperate enogh to feed some crops Seagrow's Organic Plant Food. I've been a number of tomato cages, so so when they are the right size, I cage them to help them stand upright and to allow them to vine.

Problems I've experienced:  Drought (which I couldn't control), scraggly plants, plants that look to be thriving but don't bring out enough tomatoes, plants that bring out tomatoes but they rot while still small and green (I think something was chowing on them!), tomatoes that have a greyish tinge, plant leaves that have a graying ashy tinge.

Harvesting: I harvested the first crop when some tomatoes were ripe and others I picked green and allowed them to ripen in a big flat container in the sun or even on the window sill in my pantry.


18 comments:

  1. I honestly have no idea how to grown them. When we lived in NYC, our neighbors had several large planters on their back porch for growing tomatoes. My parents pulled it off too. Me? I've never tried--but I do like eating them.

    True Heroes from A to Z

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    1. Planters sound good. I'm increasingly thinking of going that route too.

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  2. Hi, Damaria. That grey tinge almost sounds like powdery mildew, but I'm not familiar with problems there. I would look into possible fungal problems. I have trouble mostly with weather. We can have frost as late as June 15, which shortens the growing season. Tomatoes need lots of hot sun, but you can't let them go dry. I sometimes create tents with plastic to protect, but it's a lot of work. Good luck! I think we all have trouble growing tomatoes....but aren't they good when we succeed? Nothing beats the taste of homegrown!
    Shells–Tales–Sails

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    1. The way they taste is the reason I haven't given up yet. I'll make a note of your advice to cover them up when it's too hot.. and since I'm considering planters, I could put the planters where there is some shade too. Thanks Sharon.

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  3. Hi Damaria .. like some crops perhaps you should crop rotate - some I know survive in the same place and same soil, perhaps tomatoes don't - I'm definitely not able to help .. but like you I love, love fresh tomatoes ...

    Good luck - but definitely worthwhile keeping on .. cheers Hilary

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    1. I emailed someone from the Agric division of the local administration. He's offered me his expertise/help before, so I thought why not take him up on it. He sent me a number of documents to read. As he works with local farmers/gardeners like me in this region, his info will hopefully help.

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  4. Hi, I love tomatoes but unfortunately don't know the science behind growing them. Hope you get required help if not already got it.

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    1. I got some help thank you. At least, he sent me some documents. He works with farmers in the area too, so his info will hopefully be specific to my situation.

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  5. Tomatoes, love em, just by themslelves, in salads and almost all my cooking. No idea about growing them though Damaria :)

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    1. They still fall under 'Crops Damaria can kill without trying" so I'm no better off, LOL!

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  6. I always had the most successful tomato crops in hanging baskets and upsidedown hanging buckets with the tomato plant growing down. I never plant them in the same place in the ground and I made sure they are out of heavy wind but getting plenty of sunlight. A courtyard may be just what you need. I don't grow my own vegetables anymore since I moved into town and rent but I miss the taste of homegrown tomatoes and strawberries so much.


    http://ceciliaaclark.blogspot.com.au

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    1. Thanks for reinforcing the courtayard move.

      Sorry you had to stop growing your own. Would your landlord not agree that you plant up a garden, even if it is containers, if you miss the taste so much? Or is your space too small? Some members at Rhonda's Down To Earth Forum talk about running gardens while they rent and it seems to be working out for them some. And they are based in Au.

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  7. Sounds like you have the same issues in South Africa that I have in Michigan. I am totally giving up on them this year. Last year too wet, the year before too hot and dry and when I did get a good crop some four-legged creature ate it!

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    1. hahahahaha! You're right. Same story; different geographies:)

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  8. Can't imagine life with out slices of tomato with Duke's mayo on white bread, salted, summer, a bit on my chin. Hope someone keeps growing tomatoes.

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    1. My biggest tomato indulgence is being able to wash a just picked tomato, washing it and then taking a bite. Sometimes I remember the salt after taking the first bite.

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  9. Tomatoes are the lifeline of any kitchen. Hope you meet with success and have a great tomato harvest, Damaria :)

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